FIRST, it was personally meeting Joe Torre at Kapalua and discovering that he's a heckuva nice guy.
Red Sox fan
takes a break
-- go Yankees
And that nice guys don't necessarily finish last, but win World Series championships and more games in a single season (125) than any major league team in history as the New York Yankees did last year under Torre.
Now, the Yankees trade for my favorite pitcher, Roger Clemens. A guy I liked long before he won an unprecedented fifth Cy Young Award.
Now pitching for the New York Yankees -- Roger Clemens. Roger Clemens in pinstripes. No, no, Nanette. Not that.
So what's a longtime, long-suffering Boston Red Sox fan to do?
Of course, I went on a sabbatical leave as a Red Sox fan three years ago when they didn't re-sign Clemens, who went to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Red Sox were on my S-list.
I became a free-agent fan, putting myself up for hire to the highest bidder. Well, at least any team that gave me a free baseball cap. There were no offers, so I rooted for the Blue Jays only when Clemens pitched.
LAST year, though, I found myself starting to pull for the Yankees, which I thought I'd never do. They were so un-Yankee-like. Not arrogant, but calmly confident. George Steinbrenner didn't make an ass of himself. And then, there was Darryl Strawberry fighting his battle with cancer.
It felt sacrilegious, but it also felt so good.
Even then, you say, what Red Sox fan, even one on sabbatical, could not hate the dreaded Yankees, a team that stole Babe Ruth away from Boston and brought about the "Curse of the Bambino," which still pervades today.
It wasn't Bill Buckner's fault, you know. Don't blame Johnny Pesky, either. Oh, if Darrell Johnson only hadn't lifted Jim Willoughby for a pinch-hitter. And forgive Mike Torrez -- figures, an ex-Yankee -- who gave up that pop-fly home run to Bucky Dent in the 1978 American League playoff game that deprived the Red Sox of another chance to lose the World Series.
Of course, you know who the Red Sox manager was in that star-crossed game? Don Zimmer, now Torre's confidant on the Yankee bench.
ONE more ironic twist of the knife: Clemens goes to the Yankees for beer-bellied David Wells, who loves The Babe.
The curse works in other mysterious ways as well.
Like the Red Sox in 1945 giving Jackie Robinson a token workout at Fenway Park and instead signing, years later, their first token black, Pumpsie Green.
Or, in 1949, dismissing a team scout's rave reviews about a young prospect named Willie Mays, who could have been had for a $5,000 signing bonus. Unfortunately, the Red Sox were not color blind.
The rest, as they say, is history. Whoever "they" were.
So, I'm extending my sabbatical and will start rooting for the Yankees again this season, with even more fervor, especially now that they have "The Rocket" and will continue to do so until Clemens hangs it up or gets traded again.
You can't blame Clemens. Enough Cy Young Awards already. What he wants, the only void in his resume, which will be submitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame, is a World Series championship. He left Boston, knowing he couldn't get one there. The same with Toronto. Now, with the Yankees, it's a different story.
Call me a front-runner, if you will, but I'd like nothing better than Clemens to get his championship ring.
So forgive me, Ted Williams and don't spit at me. Forgive this sinner, all you other Red Sox greats I cheered for over the years -- Pesky, except for one play; Walt Dropo, Junior Stephens, Mel Parnell, Bobby Doerr, Billy Goodman and Carl Yastrzemski. And I hope Tony Conigliaro, Harry Agganis, Ellis Kinder and Al "Zeke" Zarilla don't turn in their graves.